Sunday, December 21, 2014

What I'm Reading: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Okay, so it's been a while since I've posted, but I'm getting back into the swing of it! I've got some fun stuff to catch up on blogging about, which I'll get to over the next few weeks. For now, I'm looking for some comfort and familiarity, which means Jane Austen for me!

There has been a lot of sadness lately in the world, with some really terrible things happening. It's even worse that these things are happening at Christmas, a time of joy and love, and peace. I have not felt peaceful lately.

Luckily, when I put that out there, a few friends did a great job of reaching out to me to comfort and reassure me. I am so lucky to have people like that in my life.

There are also general things that I like to do in my life, when I realise that I'm struggling to cope:

  • Make sure I'm getting enough sleep. You are almost certainly not getting enough sleep, so make it a real priority. A couple of nights this week, I went to bed at 8:30. I didn't fall asleep then (I read!), but I was in bed, preparing for sleep. There was no phone, no news, no Facebook, no email... Ah, heaven. 
  • Make sure I'm eating properly - for me, that means, making sure I have lunch covered and I don't have to race around in the morning and throw together a cheese sandwich. A cheese sandwich will get you through the day, but it's not really living is it? And even if you are going to have a cheese sandwich, make it the night before. 
  • Feeling the love. This is where my awesome friends stepped in and shared wonderful things that were happening in their lives, or reminded me of wonderful things happening in my life, or just talked to me about other things that are wonderful (in this case, comics). It was pretty great. 
  • Revisit wonderful, familiar things - I'm avoiding most television at the moment, but I try and catch Bitchin' Kitchen whenever possible (it's a hilarious cooking show) and I'm re-watching Community, because it really makes me laugh (although some bits are weird and I don't like them, but on a DVD you can just fast forward). And of course, I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice! 
I first read Pride and Prejudice many years ago as a teenager, and I had the delight of studying Jane Austen with John Wiltshire at La Trobe University during my Bachelor's degree. The subject was called 'Re-reading Jane Austen', and there was a lot of focus on how Jane Austen often recaps events, and how brilliant it is. In Pride and Prejudice, the best example of this is when Elizabeth re-reads Darcy's letter, and we see how it affects her differently every time, and how she gradually comes to understand and accept what he says. 

So, in case you don't know the story of Pride and Prejudice, it's essentially a love story. It was written in 1813 and is set at the same time, during the Napoleonic Wars. At that time, the community you lived in was really the only people you ever saw - people didn't really travel far throughout England, and letters took ages to get anywhere. Plus, there were strict social conventions about who you could write to - if you were a girl, and you met a guy at a party, and he was going off to war, you couldn't write to him. And you would have had to be introduced to him at the party by someone who knew you both. So you can see how people's social circles were really small! 

The book opens with a rich guy moving into the neighbourhood, which is a real boon for all the families with single daughters! The main character of the book is Lizzy Bennet, who is the second daughter of the Bennet family, who have 5 daughters. They live at an estate called Longbourne, but due to the conditions on inheriting the estate, it can't be left to any of the daughters - instead, it goes to a more distant, male, relative. It's just like Downton Abbey! 

So there's a lot of reasons for the women of the neighbourhood to want to meet and marry the man who has moved in, Mr Bingley - not to mention his even richer friend who is staying with him, Mr Darcy. This is another thing that happened a lot in those times, people had really long visits with their friends and family. Because the visits were so rare, when they did happen, it could be for weeks or even months at a time. 

I just love this book, because it's about mistakes and misunderstandings, but everything still ends happily. If you know me (and if you don't, you're probably not reading this blog) you know that I love that. I know I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I'm probably not done yet, but it does kind of feel like everything is going to end well. 

So I guess all my tips worked! I'm feeling more positive about everything. 

I'll have another post up before the end of the week, and I'll always tweet and Facebook that they're up, but if you want to know immediately, you can subscribe to the blog and get an email whenever I put a post up. 

Take care everyone. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

PPOM: Something that makes me happy

It's August, which means it's Potentially Problematic Opinions Month! Except this year, it's now just a great group blogging attempt, with weekly themed posts - the first post is things that make you happy.

What is making me happiest at the moment is my family. I caught up with a cousin last week, and had a great time reminiscing about lots of family events. And things have been really great with my family as a whole lately - we've had a family wedding, and overseas trips, and school performances, and an engagement announced, and everyone is home safely and getting along. That makes me so happy.

And just today, I did a thing that made me really happy - I bought tickets to a convention that is happening in Germany, and am making plans to go to Europe for three weeks next year. I am SO EXCITED and can't wait for it to happen, but I know that it's a big commitment, and a big trip. I'm giving myself today to ignore the reality of all that, and just bask in the delight of being able to say 'I'm going'.

Finally, this got me laughing - a post on an ancestry blog, where the family historian author wrote hatemail to her ancestors. It's a hilarious post, about naming your kids better, and leaving better records for her to find - in fact, the whole blog is great, especially if you're a family historian. It's called Clue Wagon, and the post is here.

Take care everyone, and I hope you have lots of things making you happy in your life.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A return, and Meat Free Week

Well, have you missed me? Sorry about the long gap, guys, it's been a crazy, crazy time. But I'm glad to be back now!

There have been a few bookish things happening, but I think I'll leave them for a post next week. You see, this week, I've been doing Meat Free Week - which is a pretty big change for me. I am known in my family for being perfectly content with meat (or fish) and potatoes, and skipping most vegetables. This week, every meal I ate has been without meat or fish.

It has been a lot better than I thought it would be, to be honest! While I certainly haven't been eating all vegies, all the time, it has been fairly simple to do, certainly very delicious, and there were only a couple of cravings I had to deal with. A lot of my meals have been egg based, like the fantastic pumpkin and feta tart I had later in the week, and I had eggs on toast a couple of times. Looking back, I wish I had included vegetables with the eggs on toast - that would have been easy to do, and still pretty quick, which was my main concern at the time I was cooking.

I've really taken a few lessons away from Meat Free Week:

  • Meat free doesn't have to mean it tastes yuck, or isn't a complete meal. While I'm not a fan of a lot of meat replacement products, I have definitely decided that a meat free meal doesn't just mean a margherita pizza and chips! There are plenty of things you can do with pasta and with eggs that feel really filling (even with a reasonable size portion!) and are also delicious. 
  • Going meat free wasn't about losing weight for me, although I have dropped a bit. But there's no point going meat free and eating giant portions of everything else. As with everything, balance is key. 
  • I really want to get more COLOUR into my diet. Even going back to including meat in my diet, I want to aim to have a rainbow on my plate every time I eat. I occasionally get caught up in having the same thing over and over, so making sure to change things up and keep it interesting every meal is really important to me. 
  • Some people get really freaked out by the idea of not eating meat. Although Meat Free Week was about doing something that is good for your health, good for the environment and good for animals, there are always people who can only see the extreme version of your actions. MP George Christensen held a 'Free Meat' lunch which specifically did not include green vegetables (although onions were "allowed"). Mr Christensen says that Meat Free Week is trying to convert people to vegetarianism, and said that not eating meat meant you weren't supporting Aussie farmers, which is "un-Australian". Sigh. I think he's forgotten that not all Aussie farmers raise sheep or cattle, and lots still grow vegetables! If you like, you can email Mr Christensen about this through his website here, or you can leave a comment on his Facebook page about the event, here. Please note that unlike some of the other comments, I do not endorse comments about Mr Christensen's personal appearance, that's really unkind. 

Another part of Meat Free Week was that you could raise money to support one of their three charities, Voiceless (an animal protection institute), the Australian Conservation Foundation, or Bowel Cancer Australia. I chose to support Bowel Cancer Australia, as I am quite concerned about the health affects of too much meat. I was amazed at the donations I received from my friends, and really touched by their support. I even received an anonymous donation, which still has me stumped! If you'd like to donate, you can still do that (up to the end of April, 2014) here

In conclusion, I plan to continue with Meat Free Monday, and maybe even Faceless Friday. I'm never going to be a complete vegetarian, but cutting down on meat has made me feel really good. It's also made me aware of the portion size of the meat that I am eating, which is often more than I should. The Australian 'Eat for Health' guidelines say that a serve of meat should be 65 grams, a serve of chicken should be 80 grams and a serve of fish should be 100 grams. It's always a bit difficult to measure grams like that, so the usual correlation to use is that a serving size should be about the size of the palm of your hand. Not with the fingers, just the palm! I know that I often eat more than that, and I'm going to try and cut back. 

Next week will be a post about the comics I'm reading, and Oz Comic Con in Adelaide which I'll be attending next weekend. It should be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to sharing that with everyone! Expect the post on Monday 7 April. Until then, keep reading! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

PPOM #4 Giving away my books

It's the last post for Potentially Problematic Opinions Month! I can't believe it's come around so fast, although in other ways it's been a very long month. I have been so busy at work, I'm working extra hours (much to the loving disapproval of my father), which means that my house is looking a bit messy. As well as messy, I've been noticing for a few months now that it looks really cluttered. So I'm going to get rid of the items I have the most of - books. Horror!

Some of my friends are horrified at this plan to get rid of some of my books, and others can't believe I'm not planning to get any money for them. Personally, I'm just at the point where I want the extraneous tomes out of my house. Don't get me wrong, I love books, but at the moment I'm tired of being surrounded by so many of them that I don't want to read. 

I have favourite books which I return to year after year, and which I love re-reading - I get something new out of them every time I read them. These are the books I'm going to keep. But I also have shelves full of books I had to buy for school or university which didn't really grab me. And I have books which I've read and enjoyed and... that's it. I'm not in love with them, and I don't plan to read them again. 

Then there are the books I've received as gifts, or for free, or as review copies. Some of these I really enjoyed, but I don't necessarily want to keep them in my house forever. I'm all about priorities - there are lots of books out there that I do want to buy and keep around forever, so I need to make some room. 

One of my friends said that I can't love books as much as I say I do if I'm "throwing them away". Bollocks. I love books so much, I'm making room for more. It's not like I'm making a giant bonfire in the local park, I'm planning to donate them all to a charity. This lets other people see books they perhaps wouldn't be exposed to, and they can even buy them cheaply! 

But another one of my friends is annoyed with me that I'm planning to give them away. She says that since I spent so much money acquiring these books, I should get some money back. Plus, the money I get can go towards new books. I do like the idea of money for more books, but it just doesn't sit right with me. A lot of these books I got for free, and the books I paid for, I feel like I've got my moneys worth. I've read them as many times as I want, and now I want the space they are occupying more than I want the books. 

I will admit, this is a weird PPOM post, but it's what's going on in my life at the moment. 

I've really loved being part of PPOM, and I thank Alex very much for inviting me to be a part of it. Posts this week include this one from Alex herself, one from Britt in Boots, one from Lizzy at Hum Drum Plum, a post from Tim at Hutt of Tea (who is new to PPOM!) and more to come. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

PPOM #3 What's with the foul language?

I am really sick of hearing bad language in public. Everyone seems to be using it, including myself sometimes, but there are still some occasions when it's just not appropriate, and I'm tired of being afraid to ask for it to stop or being sneered at when I do ask.

I have been in a few situations recently where I've heard people swearing in public, and I really don't like it. In particular, on the train. There seems to be something about the train, especially when people get on in a group, that feels like home, as if somehow, the people sitting within touching distance can't hear you. Lately, there seems to be a lot people being reasonably calm and swearing. They're just using the f-word as punctuation, not in an angry, scary way, and not in a malicious way. It's almost as if they don't realise that it could be offensive to some people.

Now, I'm not innocent of this. I started out not swearing at all, and then I kind of went the other way. Now I'm trying to rein it in again, and it's really hard. I always feel particularly bad when I swear at work, which I'm really working on stopping altogether. Although it relieves some tension in the moment, I always regret it immediately afterwards, and feel guilty for using bad language around my co-workers. Plus, it's not just around my co-workers, anybody could be walking past our office and hear what I'm saying. That's not a great feeling.

Bad language is also more prevalent in music, making it difficult to sing along to the radio, and making me horrified when I hear my little cousins innocently singing words I don't ever want to hear them say, let alone when they're still in primary school and don't even understand what they mean.

I think my biggest problem is that people are using this language because it's easy. They just don't want to think harder about what's coming out of their mouth, how they are expressing their thoughts - it's laziness. I do not like that. How you communicate your thoughts matters, and you should think hard about that. I know that I spend all day talking to people, and I think I owe them the respect of choosing my words carefully. Now, why would I go to all the trouble with the customers I deal with, and not show the same respect to my wonderful colleagues? Why would I be so careful around strangers on the train, and not around my friends and family, who I love?

So I'm declaring a moratorium on bad language for myself. I don't want to say it, and I'd prefer it if it isn't used around me, although I respect the right of people to use whatever language they like wherever they are legally allowed to do so - don't forget, there is a law against using 'disorderly, offensive, threatening and violent' language in public in Victoria, which can see you receive a $240 fine.

Inspired by my own experiences, and by this post at The Rheel Daze.

More PPOM posts: from Lizzy at Hum Drum Plum, a defence of Sansa Stark; from Noni at A Doll's Drivellings, on being fat (Noni has just joined PPOM, and it's great to have her); and Alex at Adventure in TV-land talks about Aussie politics.

PPOM #2 Who is Dr Who

I just love watching Dr Who, although I never really watched the original series - I'm a fan of the re-boot. I really loved Christopher Eccleston, and I thought David Tennant was great too. I did lose interest slightly a few episodes into Matt Smith's tenure, but I did still occasionally check in.

Most recently, I was caught up in the speculation about who would become the new Doctor. There was a lot of speculation about who might be considered, and I found a lot of it really interesting. As I said, I'm not a hard-core fan, but I do like the show, and I like being a part of conversations about it. It was really interesting to see who people thought would be good at the part, and occasionally adding my own opinions about that.

However, there was one type of conversation I steered right away from: discussions about the gender of the next Doctor. I was really frustrated by conversations about this, as I just couldn't understand them - the Doctor is a man, he has always been a man, it is only right and proper that he continue to be man. Although Time Lords don't die, but rather regenerate with a new body, they don't change their gender.

My problem with a lot of the posts was that they seemed to want Steven Moffat (the lead writer for the show, and an executive producer) to choose a woman, for no other reason than they (the fans) wanted a woman to play Dr Who. I really don't understand that - Dr Who is a man. If you want to see more great female characters, then push for that, but I don't think re-casting a fantastic, well-known role in a different gender is the answer.

This post was inspired by a lot of people, mostly random commentators on the internet, and also specifically a tweet by Adele Walsh, the Program Coordinator at the Centre for Youth Literature (the tweet read "Having a fandom tumblr blog doesn't make you an authority on the decisions currently being made in the writer's room. Ugh.") and an article Justine Larbalestier tweeted about, which can be found here, called Why I Hate Strong Female Characters.

Also, this post was due up last week, but I got swamped at work and I couldn't make it happen. Fortunately, the other guys were more organised and got their posts up. Lizzy is talking about crumpets and Britt wants people to stop lecturing her about safety. Finally, Alex is talking about Dr Who - she's another person who inspired this post.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Potentially Problematic Opinions Month

I was so delighted when Alex from Adventures in TV Land contacted me, and even more delighted when she asked me to be part of a group blogging about Potentially Problematic Opinions Month over August.

I have really enjoyed reading Adventures in TV Land over the past year or so, and it's great to feel that Alex is now reading my blog - no pressure!

Anyway, on to Potentially Problematic Opinions Month!

Working in a bookstore, there are lots of potentially problematic opinions - liking or not liking certain books, authors or genres; recommending a book you know the child will love but having to try and convince the parent; and even dressing a certain way - I've been told, 'you don't look like you read fantasy, get me someone else'.

One question which comes up again and again, in bookstores around the world, is 'have you read all these books?' If the bookseller answers 'no', which they usually have to do, because no-one has that kind of time, then they're asked 'if you haven't read them all, how do you know what to recommend?'

Personally, I have a troubled relationship with the classics. Although there are many that I do love there are many more that I do not.

I love adventure tales, and stories of shipwrecks, but I have never read Moby Dick. I have never been moved to even pick it up and read the blurb.

I have never read anything by Ernest Hemingway. I know a few stories about Hemingway - the touching shortest of short stories he wrote ("Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.") and that he fought in Spain and loved bullfighting, and his legendary drinking. But again, I've never been moved to pick up a single one of his books.

I borrowed Dante's Inferno from a friend after she raved about it. I had it for A YEAR and still didn't read it all. I barely got into Hell.

I don't mind that I don't connect with some of the classics, but it was a big problem for some of the customers at the store, and it continues to be a big problem with some people I meet who know that I love books, but are shocked, horrified or disgusted because I don't love the books they think everyone should love.

Obviously, these people are wrong, but it's annoying when it happens.Everyone has their own top ten books, their favourites, books they return to time after time, books which have touched their lives and given strength in times of trouble and comfort in times of distress. Everyone has the right to choose their own books. I don't mind listening to people make the case for why I should read their favourite books, in fact I love it, but please, tread carefully when talking about classics to me.

Note that you can read more posts from people who are part of Potentially Problematic Opinions month here (from Britt in Boots), here (from Hum Drum Plum) and here (Adventures in TV Land).